What is Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

What is Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

Many patients come to our office frustrated that their ears are popping and feel full. This is particularly common during allergy season, when in the thrux of a cold, recent flight, etc. and diagnosed with “Eustachian Tube Dysfunction”.  There are two Eustachian tubes, one for each ear, that connect from the back of the nose/top of the throat (otherwise known as the nasopharynx) to the base of the middle ear space. The Eustachian tubes open and close in relation to pressure changes with the atmosphere and when doing so, you hear or feel the ears “pop” as the ear drum accomodates. When there is blockage, either within the middle ear or the nasopharynx, the Eustachian tubes become dysfunctional and your ears feel full.

Typically, these symptoms require an audiogram to rule out concerning etiology with your hearing, followed by a physical exam and nasal endoscopy (to evaluate the openings of the Eustachian tube). Depending on exam findings and audiogram, we then proceed with a game plan to improve, and hopefully resolve, your symptoms.For example, you may have a child who was told they needed “tubes”. This is because their anatomic Eustachian tubes typically reside within a flat plane until approximately age 6 where they develop at an incline.  During that time, fluid easily accumulates in the middle ear due to lack of gravity and causes symptoms, depending on their age, of irritability, fever, tugging at the ears, possible perforations, changes in hearing, speech, etc. We place tubes in the ear drum, thus allowing for the ear to accommodate pressure change and reduce the risk of long term damage to the ear and hearing. As adults, because our Eustachian tubes are developed and our adenoid bed (lymphatic tissue in the nasopharynx) typically atrophied, we are less likely to get ear infections. If you are experiencing fullness in the ears, popping, hearing loss, or particularly have an ear infection, please schedule a consultation with one of our providers to evaluate your symptoms.

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